In a vein effort to keep my mind occupied until Deus Ex: Human Revolution comes out on Tuesday I have decided to play the Tropico 4 demo available on Steam. I have always had a very fond place in my heart for the Tropico series (well 1 and 3 at least) and I was excited to see what Kalypso came up with for a new installment.
I adored Tropico 3. When it released last summer newcommer Kalypso media quickly made a great first impression on me. Tropico 3 really captured the spirit of the original, while giving us gorgeous next-gen graphics and an updated interface. When the Tropico 3 demo came out I played the one level they offered 4 or 5 times just because it was that exciting. The music, as everyone who reviewed the game mentioned without fail, was absolutely spectacular and really helped create the banana republic island dictatorship theme to aplomb.
With Tropico 3 being so innovative and chock full of the things us PC master race strategy gamers dream of, you may be surprised to find I was not anticipating Tropico 4 in the slightest. Since the release of Tropico 3 last summer Kalypso has also released Dungeons, a "tycoon" type game focused around building dungeons for heroes that was marketed as Dungeon Keeper 3, and the Last Templar, a budget 3rd person slasher that no one really paid any attention to. Not releases that would suggest that Kalypso is a company focused on delivering quality products rather than releasing mediocre games that cost nothing to develop.
Enter the Tropico 4 demo. The first thing I noticed is, well, look at the 2 screen shots below and tell me what you notice.
The games share the exact same graphics. Only thing is Tropico 3 actually looks better! Tropico 4 has the same buildings, same character models, the same fountains, the same mechanics. The only thing really different are the menus. The game has a few more buildings and a perfectly imbalanced "quest" system that does nothing but inflate your income. Even the biggest community problems with Tropico 3, namely the gigantic footprint of garages and the non-existent difficulty (side note: turn up the difficulty on Tropico 1 and it is brutal!) are completely ignored in Tropico 4. The game is, for all intents and purposes, a map pack marketed as a full priced release.
I had the pleasure of meeting the North American head of marketing for Kalypso at Pax East this year and he was a very pleasant guy to chat with. He let me know that Kalypso is profitable. This really concerns me. Now Tropico 3 has proven to me that there is definitely talent in the publisher/developer. They are capable of great, but they make more money producing mediocre. This is bad news for us PC fans and for the future of Tropico in general.
Hasta lavista El Presidente.
Is Deus Ex out yet??